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Ohio’s 3C rail corridor could reach 110mph speeds

Ohio’s plans for the 3C “Quick Start” passenger rail project can include speeds of up to 110mph without the need for new track construction according to a release from Linking Ohio – a citizen advocacy group started by All Aboard Ohio.

Recent news reports have indicated that top speeds of only 79mph would be possible due to current regulations, but the advocacy group cites Section 24308 of Title 49 of the United States Code that has a process that would allow systems operated by or for Amtrak to operate on freight corridors at these accelerated speeds. The appeals process would be heard by the Surface Transportation Board who would then determine whether the accelerated speeds would be safe for the proposed corridors.

Those behind Ohio’s 3C “Quick Start” Project say that while the higher speeds are possible, they are not necessarily desirable for the initial start.

“Experience with other new start passenger rail services show that improved reliability, frequent service, convenience and service amenities are important factors in attracting riders,” said the advocacy group in the release. “The 3C “Quick Start” Project has consistently been communicated as a first step to bringing high-speed passenger rail to our state, and in order to quickly offer this travel option to 6.8-million Ohioans living along the 3C corridor, Ohio can implement speeds at 79mph by making some initial upgrades to the existing tracks now being used solely for freight transportation.”

The plan currently on the table calls for upgrades to existing freight bottleneck areas and a variety of other improvements that will make passenger rail to safely operate on the same tracks as existing freight rail. Other improvement costs cover the construction of passenger rail stations, parking and “last-mile transportation options.”

“Once the initial service is up and running at 79mph, the State will begin implementing additional corridor upgrades to achieve 110mph service using the existing track infrastructure,” Linking Ohio stated. “However, there are steps and negotiations with freight railroads that will need to be navigated in order to increase speeds.”

Following this initial quick start process, officials hope to upgrade the system to even higher speeds reaching 125mph – the optimal speed for rail service between cities 100 to 500 miles apart. Any service reaching these speeds will require its own separate right-of-way and tracking. With 79mph passenger rail service not scheduled to start until 2012, 125mph service or above is something that appears to be a decade in the making.

All Aboard Ohio testimony in Washington D.C. photo provided by All Aboard Ohio.

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News

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland denounces "cheerleaders for failure"

Ohio Governor Ted Strickland discusses the $400 million that the state received for passenger rail start up service on the proposed 3C Corridor. In the impromptu interview in the halls of the statehouse, Governor Strickland denounces those he calls “cheerleaders for failure,” and emphasizes how important this money is for Ohio and the state’s future.

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Development News Politics Transportation

Ohio receives $400M for high-speed rail

The winners have been chosen, and Ohio’s efforts to land money for rail service along the Cincinnati-Columbus-Cleveland (3-C) Corridor have been successful. Today it has been announced that Ohio will receive $400 million for track upgrades, grade crossings, new stations, and maintenance facilities.

Meanwhile the larger Midwest region pulled in a collective $2.6 billion which was second only to the West Coast region which nabbed an impressive $2.942 billion of the total $8 billion available. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, views this as an investment that will make passenger rail more efficient while also providing better service in travel markets across the nation.

  • High-speed rail travel offers competitive door-to-door trip times
  • It reduces congestion on key routes between cities
  • It reduces transportation emissions
  • And, most of all, it creates the jobs of the future, the jobs America needs right now

For Cincinnati there are still questions though about a station location. The $400 million is a significant investment, but will still not enough to cover the $517.6 million needed to extend the line through one of the nation’s most heavily congested rail yards to Union Terminal. Additional track to run the line all the way to Lunken Airport might also prove be to costly according to project officials.

Ken Prendergast, executive director of All Aboard Ohio, responded to those questions by saying, “The state could trim costs by using rebuilt, rather than new, passenger cars and by ending the route in Sharonville rather than at Lunken Field, and when there is enough money run trains to Union Terminal.”

The 250-mile 3-C Corridor has long been seen as one of the nation’s most promising rail corridors with projections estimating that 478,000 passengers will use the rail service annually. The new service will operate three daily round trips with top speeds of 79mph and serve a population of more than 6.8 million people, close to 40 colleges and universities, and 22 Fortune 500 companies.

Categories
Development News Politics Transportation

The 3C Corridor and its impacts on Cincinnati

Representatives from the Ohio’s Department of Transportation traveled to City Hall last week to host an open forum discussing and explaining the 3C passenger rail project to Cincinnatians. This proposal will connect Cincinnati to Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland via passenger rail, and a group of about 30 people gathered at City Hall to get more information on the upcoming project and voice their opinions on the project and how it will affect Cincinnati.

The 3C representatives went through a detailed presentation outlining the plan that will be submitted to the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act for funding. If funding is approved for this project, there will be a preliminary “Quick Start” phase to get the rail up and running as quickly as possible. In this first phase it will take approximately 6.5 hours to ride the train from Cincinnati to Cleveland, with the trains reaching speeds of up to 79 miles per hour.

The eventual goal is to develop high-speed rail in Ohio, with trains traveling up to 110 miles per hour, and eventually connecting into the larger Midwest regional rail plan often referred to as the Chicago Hub. At these speeds the travel time from Cincinnati to Cleveland will be reduced to approximately 3.5 hours. Future hubs will create more stops than the six that are currently proposed. The current recommended route that will be submitted with the proposal includes hubs in Cleveland proper, south Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, north Cincinnati, and Cincinnati proper.

So how does this affect Cincinnati? Having reliable passenger rail connecting the public throughout the state of Ohio is fantastic. Of course, high-speed rail is the preferable (and eventual) goal, but one has to wonder how effective taking “baby steps” towards rail will be as opposed to tackling high-speed rail in one fell swoop.

The biggest concern at the meeting was the location of the train station that would service the greater Cincinnati area. The research group initially picked three locations to focus on: the Queensgate area, an area near Riverside Drive/the Boathouse/Sawyer Point, or a station located farther east, near Lunken Airport. All three of these options naturally have their drawbacks. The Queensgate area already deals with large amounts of freight traffic, and the concern was that there would be too much congestion in the area to make that stop feasible.

The proposed “Option one” (Riverside Drive) area was the station that caused the most concern and alarm among residents who were in attendance at the meeting. Denise Driehaus, a state representative who hails from the West Side, voiced her concern that locating the station on the far southeast side of the City would set up obstacles for citizens traveling from the west side. It is also less advantageous from a retail and tourism perspective, as newcomers to the Cincinnati will be dropped off on the east side rather than more towards the city center.

There were several East End citizen groups who were concerned about the Option One site for different reasons. Over the course of several years, citizen groups and people from the area have worked hard to create a “Riverfront Renaissance” consisting of the network of parks and housing in that particular area. These citizens are concerned that a new diesel train station would disturb the views and tear down the aforementioned parks. All of these proposed stations are, as of now, only temporary locations. As the Riverfront Renaissance spokesman stated, “temporary’ is measured in decades in Cincinnati.”

As of the meeting, the ODOT representatives stated that they had not come to a conclusion on which Cincinnati site they would choose to include in the October 2nd proposal. However, Jason from Somewhere Over-the-Rhine cites an article from the Enquirer stating that the backlash from this open forum meeting prompted officials to choose the Lunken Airport site as opposed to the eastern riverfront area.

There are obvious drawbacks to this site as well, the most obvious being its distance from the Cincinnati’s center city and its attractions and accommodations for business and leisure travelers alike. There is also the issue of being so far away from the existing Amtrak service that connects Cincinnati with Indianapolis and Chicago to the west, and Washington D.C. to the east – both of which run out of Cincinnati’s Union Terminal in Queensgate.

What are your thoughts?